HYDERABAD: It was the year 2010. 20-year-old Rakesh Manpat, a budding rifle shooter from Bengaluru, was participating in the 10m air rifle shooting event at the junior world championship in Germany. He finished a credible 5th. On the other hand was Ukraine’s Serhiy Kulish, who managed a third-place finish in the same event.
After a promising stint at the juniors, one would have hoped for a successful transition of Indian shooters to the senior level. Who knows, maybe they would attain greater heights too! It seems everything fell in place for Kulish, as he won silver at the Rio Olympics, but Manpat, once a top 3 shooter in the country, has not been able to make a mark at the top level.
The reason: lack of funds to buy proper equipment, no different to any other struggling shooter in the country. “I was shooting my best from 2010 to 2012. I had hoped for better things after that. But lack of funds dented all my dreams. You need to have the best equipment to consistently shoot 10.8s and 10.9s. For that, you need to dole out at least `9 lakh. Another 10-15 lakh are needed for proper training throughout the year. Then only can you hope to graduate to the next level,” Manpat told Sunday Standard.
Expensive and hard-to-get equipment is accessible only to the elite few in India, who have sponsors, or are backed by some organisation. While the rest just have to manage with mediocre equipment that is just not good enough to produce desired results.
“In India, not many shooters can afford these rifles. At the 2013 nationals, only two of the eight finalists had the apt equipment. Things have improved since then, but they are still out of reach of shooters who are just coming into the senior circuit,” added Manpat.
The shooter was also quick to point out that medals don’t come in easy at the highest level. It is the combined effort of sports associations and the hard work put in by players. “People keep asking me why I’m not able to perform well now. All I can say is that medals are a reflection of our system. But age is in my favour, as I am 25, and the average peak age is 28-29 years. Getting funds will definitely push me back on top,” Manpat noted.
Now, after a lean patch, he is all set to start from scratch, and is aiming to do well in the coming year. He has already started looking for help from all corners, and is aiming to attain supremacy at the nationals, to start with.